Photographer – Kerri Ambler
Cobber Webb b. 1940
Cobber was born in Molong in 1940 and has lived there all his life. He has four children and several grandchildren. Married for 50 years (married in 1967), he and his wife separated and he now lives alone. There are pictures of his wife throughout his little cottage.
Entering his house is a veritable trip back in time. Cobber looks like he’s just stepped out of a shearing shed in the 1950s. A ragged black Akubra sits forever atop his weathered face. His trademark shirt, with cut-off sleeves, and worn workpants are his uniform. He loves nothing more than a good chinwag over a cuppa and a biscuit or two. His stories are endless and he’s a wealth of knowledge on all things Molong.
Sitting in his favourite armchair, Cobber is surround by trophies from his racing days. Faded ribbons and photos of his winners take pride of place on the walls. He’s always had a great love of horses, was in the racing game for years, and had ‘plenty of winners’. A knee replacement means he can no longer ride. However, he still takes in unwanted horses, ‘gets them going again’ and sends them on to loving homes.
Geoff Morrell b. 1958
Geoff Morrell is an actor, with a successful career spanning 25 years. He is best known for his roles in Oscar and Lucinda, Blackrock, Blue Murder, Ned Kelly, and, more recently, Rake, Cloudstreet and Top of the Lake. The list is long.
Geoff was born on a chicken farm in western Sydney. His father, a teacher, often moved the family to different towns for work. From an early age, Geoff became accustomed to a nomadic lifestyle. He says this formed his way of living. ‘Life as an actor is a solitary one in lots of ways – a gypsy lifestyle. It’s hard on relationships. As soon as I’m settled somewhere, I get sick of it and want to move on.’
These days Geoff is more interested in his art practice. ‘Acting is very much a disempowering way to live… you have to get permission to practice your art – unlike painting, or writing, where you can choose when, where and what you want to do. Working as an actor, you have to make too many compromises – then you… go into studio and regain that power.’
Geoff now lives in Mt Keira, near Wollongong. ‘Wollongong is a hidden treasure. We try and keep it secret. It’s easy. You can take the dog to a beach, there’s free parking. I look up at the big mountain (Mt Keira) and I’m kind of in the rainforest. Roll down the hill to the freeway and… at the airport in an hour… There are some great scenes starting to happen here too, people from Sydney are starting to cotton on to Wollongong.’
He’s thinking, ‘Where do I go next?’
Leca Perry and Brett Murphy b. 1961 & 1966
Leca was born in Holsworthy Army Barracks, grew up in a family of six kids, and spent her early years living the transient army family life.
She has been a lover of horses since little, and her mother, Nancy, although poor, found money to support Leca’s passion. Leca went on to win
Dressage Champion of the Year many times, and Horse of the Year in the NSW State Titles. She is a registered panel judge for the NSW Palomino society, and lists judging at the Sydney Royal as one of her proudest achievements.
Leca was married twice, has one adult child, and now lives in Molong with Brett, as his full-time carer.
Leca and Brett met while they were both living in Wisemans Ferry over ten years ago. Brett walked by Leca’s house while she was moving in and gave her a hand. As payment, she drove him into town as he didn’t have a car. ‘After I helped Leca with her washing machine – I have a disability – she used to bring me containers of food. I was starving before that. I lived off fish I would catch in the river. She was always there when I was down. Eventually I convinced her to become my full-time carer. We’ve been family ever since.’
Brett was born in Fairfield NSW. He was his mother’s carer from age 14 to 38. When she passed away, Brett was evicted from the family home and went to live in a tent in Wallacia. He describes his upbringing as, ‘Hard. Now there’s a word. Hard. It’s hard to care for someone 24/7 while they’re bedridden. But I’d do it all again.’
Mark Oats b. 1952
Mark grew up in Molong and has never left. He has a long-term partner, with three grown kids. ‘Grown, gone, see ya – they’re all in good shape.’
Mark is a panel beater by trade. He suffered a heart attack a few years back and was forced to give up work. This meant he could focus on his art. He turned his panel beating prowess to sculpting. Working out of Benny’s (Caldwell Metal Recyclers in Molong), he fashions beautiful large-scale artworks out of scrap metal.
‘I’ve got plenty of things to do. I haven’t made a fortune out of anything, but it keeps me busy – that and my paintings. If I’m not doing that, I’m working on stage.’
Mark has been a member of the local theatre group, The Molong Players, for over 30 years, as well as The Old Mates Theatre Company, of which he is one of four male members. On acting: ‘I don’t really know why I do it actually, but I can’t not try and do it.’
On ageing: ‘Getting older is not much fun but at the moment I really feel good. The body is slowing down but I try and keep in good shape, do yoga and that sort of stuff, walk in the mornings.’ Mark walks his favourite route of 3 to 4 kms around town every morning.
Kerri Ambler (b. 1971) is a designer and photographer living and working in rural NSW. Four years ago, she picked up her two children (then aged seven and nine) and moved from Sydney to a rambling historical homestead near Molong in central west NSW. Kerri completed a degree in photography from Sydney College of the Arts about a million years ago. Since then, she's worked as a designer of websites, print and fashion, and a photographer of people. Small towns have big stories, and it’s these stories that fascinate her. Kerri is currently compiling work for a book and show about the people of Molong.